I love playing NTN Trivia. Last week’s Topix game was about Films About Writers. Great subject. I Googled it and found dozens of lists that totaled hundreds of films. I was shocked by not just the volume, but by how many truly great films are about writers. Remember Misery, The Player, Capote, The Hours, Barton Fink, Sideways, Julie & Julia, A Face in the Crowd, Leaving Las Vegas, Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan, My Favorite Year, The Shining, Los Weekend, Reds, All the Presidents Men, The Way We Were, The Diary of Anne Frank, Seems Like Old Times and on and on and on?
Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that I’m particularly sensitive to the subject of writing. But I think it goes beyond that. Ever since our first lesson in writing, we are told to write about what we know. And what do we know the most about is . . . writing. The isolation, the deadlines, the plots that start out so promising and end up going nowhere, the characters you grow to love or hate, the satisfaction of writing that last perfect word at the end of a great book, the thrill the first time you see your book on a shelf in a bookstore (remember Waldenbooks?), the excitement of seeing your book on the bestseller’s list (any bestseller’s list), the disappointment that your favorite book didn’t get the recognition you felt it deserved and, of course, the readers who we, unfortunately, don’t have enough contact with any more.
Writing can be the most fun, rewarding career possible. Or it can make you miserable. I’m not going to get all preachy on you and say you should write for the right reasons. I’m sure there are people out there who write just because they enjoy it, but I think most of us who have made it a career, write for the money and the glory (however little both of those may be). Things go on in our brains that don’t go on in everyone else’s. We are curious. We are creative. We are easily distracted. We can never say anything in one sentence when five will say so much more. It’s because we are storytellers.
But be honest . . . writing is hard work. Plotting is exciting. Research is fun. Creating characters is interesting. Sitting your butt on a chair and actually putting words on the page is torture. I think that’s why writers write about writers. It reminds us that we’re living our dream. It validates our sometimes eclectic interests and the way we look at the world a little differently than everyone else. It makes it all worthwhile.
We’re the lucky ones . . . except when we have deadlines. So pick up your favorite film about writers and take the afternoon off. FYI – my favorites are Romancing the Stone, As Good As It Gets, Adaptation and Sunset Boulevard. Enjoy!